Eroica Limburg – Another tick off the list!
For those of you that are new into cycling or only ride road or mountain bike, L’Eroica is a celebration of the bygone days of cycle racing, emulating the heroic cycling of early legends such as Bartali and Coppi. Starting in Italy in 1997 these events are now all over the world (at present there are now 11 counties that participate).In Eroica Limburg, or any Eroica event, you must ride a vintage bike older than 1987. Your attire should be of similar age, as well as your shoes, gloves and other accessories but don’t be mistaken, this is no casual jaunt in the park. The events are based around the rolling hills of Tuscany including steep climbs and gravel roads which is not east if you stick to traditional gearing and choose the tougher routes.
Having already ticked off the Eroica Brittania (twice) and the original event in Itlay, myself and Julie headed off to what in Europe is known as “cycling central”. This is the area of the early season cycling classics races where many of the Dutch and Belgium pro peleton riders come from. This was our first time to the area so was not fully sure of what to expect but I had a good idea after having ridden some of the one day classic Sportif’s such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege and tour of Flanders. After packing the Van with my 1985 “Faggin” and Julies newly refurbished 1956 “Triumph” we headed off to the Chunnel for the drive over to Eroica Limburg.
It wasn’t a great start to the day as an accident on the Dartford toll meant we missed the check in time by 2 mins. This I didn’t think would be a problem as having crossed many times previously they just put you back onto a later train as the depart every 20 mins. Much to our surprise however they put us back 6 hours !! Luckily we made the most of it having a slow breakfast and the recent glorious weather allowed us to get out the rug and find a nice grassy spot to lay and soak up the sun. A nice spot of lunch and we were through J.
The traffic was busy especially around Brussels (Friday night commuter’s going home) but after a 3.5 hour drive we made it just in time to collect our entry pack, numbers route guide etc from the venue in Valkenburg. It was a lovely park just outside the centre of town with a bandstand, kids fun fair, vintage bike stalls and the obligatory bars and food stalls. Being so late in the day we didn’t get a chance to enjoy the bands laid on for the evening but opted to find a nice restaurant and off to bed early for an early start in the morning.
Eroica Limburg The Route
Having ridden the other events previously, I knew Eroica Limburg wasn’t going to be easy so we opted for the “Classic” route as usual, which is the middle distance on the list of 60, 100 and 160km. We were up early at 6.30 and a good breakfast in the room which we had planned on as breakfast in the hotel wasn’t open yet, we fitted our Eroica Limburg numbers to the bikes and jersey’s and cycled the 1km to the 8am start in the middle of the town. The longer route riders had mostly left much earlier in preparation of a long day in the saddle. As per usual Julie got interviewed on the mike at the start, it seems there are never many ladies doing these events so they always make a beeline for her !!
We set off in small a group and immediately entered the famous caves of the medieval town, who new ! It was very cool inside and obviously quite dark with lots of signs and set pieces but with no time to do the tourist thing we head back out into the warm early sun to hit the most famous hill in the Netherlands, The Cauberg, numerous world championships and Amstel Gold Races have been decided here, and it was steep! Passing several people walking already but Julie did great on the newly named “Tina” (the tank) getting to the top before catching our breath. We then headed out into the beautiful region of Eijsden-Margraten, which was rolling hills amongst many fruit trees.
We hit some of the first off-road sections which were really tough with thick gravel , these had everyone walking including me ! After more rolling countryside we did a nice long descent to the first feed station located at the idyllic village of Eijsden and a famous restaurant ‘Aon t Bat’ by the river Meuse which was massive ! The views were spectacular and the local fruit pie and coffee first rate (I opted for apricot whilst Julie had the cherry umm- umm) We then hopped onto a tiny Ferry boat across the River Meuse onto an actual isle, right between the Netherlands and Belgium. We travelled several kilometers along the Meuse river on the proper cycle path (which are everywhere) passing the World War Two fortress Eben Emael and criss-crossing the Meuse several times over larger bridges and Locks big enough to fit a container ship in!
The next 20 Km was starting to get hot (into the late 20’s) as we were now into late morning. There were several more gravel sections with steep up and down’s we hit small feed station with fruit filled doughnuts and a weird sour apple liquor and was glad to fill up our water bottles. For those that do the normal spotif’s there are no energy bars and gels here !! they weren’t invented back when they did 400km stages of the Tour or 300KM one day classics.
The Best Feed Station – Ever
After this the mid day sun started to get us (by then into the mid 30’s) and the next 20km seemed to take forever. The next stop however has got to be my favourite so far in my 15 years of cycling, a beautiful chateau in the middle of the Dutch countryside. This had a moat with flowing water and cooling fountains. It had plenty of welcome shade and served Pizza slices with an ice cold glass of Rose’ wine.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay longer, or we might not have got back on the bikes ! We pushed on the final stretch back towards Valkenburg. This was not without a final stop at the last feed station which was at one of the worlds oldest breweries “Brandt”, formed in 1340 it was now a modern facility, but the most welcome ice cold beer I have ever had. It was only then a short last 5km to the finish line, which was now buzzing with people watching and cyclist’s finishing. We were adorned with our finisher’s medal and Julie’s finisher’s interview !! even got to meet the famous ex world champion and TdF Dutch rider Joop Zoetemelk . 73 miles overall so a somewhat conservative estimate of 100km with 900M of climbing. Tough but just enough to be both tired but enjoyable.
Overall Eroica Limburg, what a fabulous event. Obviously the weather made it but well organised as usual with the people and camaraderie all based around peoples passion for riding your bike is tremendous. Roll on Erioca Hispania 2019 in the rolling Rioca wine region.
Steve & Julie